4. Strategic Priority 3 – Innovation and Modernisation
SFRS should continually improve and modernise the service it provides so that it can do more to improve outcomes for communities across Scotland. Modernisation proposals should be considered, developed and delivered using sound evidence and should include but not be limited to ensuring SFRS is using its people, assets and financial resources in the most efficient and effective manner and that the role of firefighters is modernised to allow the Service to address new and emerging risks in our communities.
SFRS has successfully delivered full integration into a single national service and is becoming increasingly involved in more non-fire related prevention and rescue activities. This has provided an opportunity for the Service to explore innovative approaches to flexible public service delivery whilst maintaining its core services.
Modernisation of the Service should include, but not be limited to:
- how the Service responds to changing community risks;
- the breadth of SFRS support to communities in pursuing improvements in their safety and wellbeing;
- the use of new technology in both operational and support functions;
- more modern and fit-for-purpose facilities shared with other public partners;
- improving how, why and when SFRS engages and communicates with the public; and
- a full contribution to the Scottish Governments Net Zero emissions targets.
The capability and the skills of SFRS should be increasingly used to improve outcomes by promoting the broader safety and well-being of individuals and communities, as well as continuing to improve fire safety and promote fire prevention.
Recovery and renewal from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic has demanded radical action. This has also offered an opportunity for some evaluation and reflection on how public services operate and work in partnership and the tools (including digital) that help us to do this.
SFRS should ensure it fully evaluates what has worked well and consider stopping or changing what does not work; so it builds on those experiences, making sure it can integrate them into new ways of working.
Full and meaningful engagement with all stakeholders but in particular staff, unions and the public is essential on developing and delivering proposed improvements to the way SFRS delivers its services.
The success of SFRS in delivering its traditional operational activity provides an opportunity to explore where it can add further value to the broader public service outcomes that we are working to deliver across Scotland. Since 2016 SFRS carried out extensive planning and consultation as part of service transformation. SFRS should build on the work already undertaken in relation to broadening the role of firefighters to ensure the Service can better contribute to positive outcomes in Scotland's communities.
Research and Development
Advances in technology mean that new and innovative solutions are being developed which greatly improve firefighting and rescue operations and help the Service pursue improved levels of efficiency and productivity. SFRS should research and develop, and where feasible introduce, new technology and ways of working that improves firefighter and public safety. This might for example include greater use of fire suppression systems, where SFRS could work with communities to widen the appropriate installation of such systems. In the introduction of any new technology or way of working it is essential for SFRS to fully evaluate the change to ensure it is delivering the planned benefits.
SFRS should keep its digital strategy under review to ensure its systems and information technology is making best use of the technology and innovation which is available.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic SFRS relied more heavily than ever on critical digital technologies as increased numbers of staff worked from home. Increasing reliance on technology is likely to continue therefore Cyber resilience is central to SFRS delivering a secure and resilient service.
SFRS should have robust, efficient and effective safeguards and processes in place, that should be well rehearsed, tested regularly and can be enacted with ease should a cyber-attack occur.
In considering how it should develop its systems and services, SFRS should take into account the Scottish Government's Digital Strategy, "A Changing Nation: How Scotland will thrive in a digital world".
In considering innovation, SFRS should work with academics, universities and fire engineering experts. As one of the largest Fire and Rescue Services of its type in the world, SFRS should consider a greater emphasis on global horizon scanning, testing the market to see what innovation it can offer in terms of new technologies and in looking at other organisations on how they are developing.
Future Development of the Service
SFRS should ensure that any changes or improvements to the service it provides are carried out on the basis of sound research and evidence, in particular through a thorough and robust assessment of the risks facing communities.
Effective Use of Resources
Through a thorough risk based approach, SFRS should consider if its physical and people resources are situated in the right place and available at the right time. This should include using risk based evidence to ensure that fire stations are situated in the best place and firefighters are available at the right time.
Retained and Volunteer Duty Systems
Retained and Volunteer Duty Systems (RVDS) play a vital role in ensuring communities are safe and protected outside our major towns and cities. The large areas of Scotland which rely on RVDS means it is essential that SFRS ensure that there are sufficient Retained and Volunteer firefighters to provide an effective service. In recognition of the ongoing challenge of recruitment and retention of RVDS firefighters for fire services across the UK and beyond SFRS has already carried out significant work in this area. SFRS should link this work with its wider modernisation objectives to formulate and deliver a plan to address those challenges, particularly around recruitment, retention and availability.
Modernisation and Expansion of the Firefighter Role
SFRS should continue to consider all options on how the service can deliver better outcomes in communities including developing the skills and abilities of the workforce to meet present and future risks and threats. Fire and Rescue Services across the UK are also considering the role of firefighters and SFRS should remain vigilant to the development of the role in other parts of the UK.
The NHS was under sustained pressure throughout the Covid-19 emergency and the recovery from that will require a sustained period of activity for some time. The expansion of SFRS emergency medical response and prevention activities offers the opportunity for SFRS to contribute to Scotland's recovery effort.
SFRS should also give consideration to integrating emergency response provision, including medical response, in a holistic way taking into account the broader aims and aspirations of the Scottish Government to integrate public service provision.
SFRS should aim for any changes to the Service, including widening the services it provides to produce better outcomes in communities, to be delivered without significant increase in the medium to long term financial resources needed in running the Service. The Scottish Government will work closely with the Service to ensure it has the resources it needs, within the context of meeting all the demands on the Scottish budget, and it should continue to build on the efficiencies it has already delivered to make maximum use of the funding it receives.
As reflected in the People section of this framework, SFRS should deliver all the improvements set out in this section as a Fair Work employer. This means it should fully consult and consider the views of staff and trade unions on workplace matters, including in relation to developing and delivering fundamental change and improvements to the Service.
Emergency Services Mobile Communication Programme
ESMCP is a major UK wide programme led by the Home Office to replace the Airwave and Firelink mobile communication systems. SFRS should continue to engage at Strategic and operational levels to aid the roll out of this important programme and must ensure that its other ICT systems can dovetail with ESMCP for the transfer and use of data.
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